Morgantown Gas Wells Fracked, No Air Pollution

MDN has chronicled the attempt by Morgantown, WV to ban drilling up to one mile outside of the city line—a saga that spanned many months. In the end, a judge struck down the ban and two wells were drilled and fracked. The main concern was that fracking might somehow contaminate the city’s water supply, which comes from the nearby Monongahela River (something that did not happen). But another concern was that the fracking process might cause air pollution that would affect a nearby elementary school. It seems that fear was also unfounded:

Air quality monitoring during hydraulic fracturing at the Marcellus shale gas well site outside Morgantown did not find problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Preliminarily, it looks like there’s no levels of concern,” said Raj Sharma, on-scene coordinator for the Emergency Response Division at EPA Region III in Philadelphia.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection asked EPA to monitor air quality at Skyview Elementary School in Westover, located on a hill above the Northeast Natural Energy wellpad, because local residents were concerned that the operation might affect school children.

The agency conducted monitoring three times: on Aug. 11-12 and on Sept. 19-20, both as baseline tests before before hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, began, and on Oct. 7-8, during hydraulic fracturing.

It collected real-time data on hydrogen sulfide and general volatile organic compounds.

It also collected samples for laboratory analysis each time using SUMMA canisters, steel tanks that are under vacuum and have regulators set to draw in air slowly over a 24-hour period. Those samples are being tested for volatile organic compounds, sulfide compounds and aldehydes.

Preliminary results show no concerns but still have to be validated, Sharma said.*

*WVNS Channel 59 (Oct 18, 2011) – EPA: Air Quality Fine During Fracturing at Morgantown Gas Well